less is more

I used photos from a gig I went to last Tuesday in a series of watercolour exercises aimed at gradually reducing the amount of line and paint I apply to the paper. The top two were the last I did, the rest are a jumble of earlier attempts. The more white paper I leave the better the effect. The gig was by the fabulous Bonfire Radicals, an experimental folk band.

Settlement

This was a raised area in a wood in Cornwall marked on the map as a settlement. Now it is overgrown with trees and moss covers the area where I guess once people lived maybe surrounded by some kind of fence. No ruins were visible to me.

I painted this in gouache as an experiment in simplifying the colours and shapes looking for a print-like quality. The sketch in conte crayon and water was done on site.

Tracks

This started with a 15 minute sketch on Reading Station and a certain mood.

This was the sequence of painting, starting with the varying opacity seen through the canvas made by the initial acrylic white layer priming the canvas.

Then building in shapes taken from the platform, rails and evening sky in water-miscible oils.

Was this the point I should have stopped? It seemed too muted.

Carrock

There was a flat space on the top of the hill of stone and a well worn path with many steps leading down it to the river, across which a ford of huge flat stones led to the grass-land beyond the stream. There was a little cave (a wholesome one with a pebbly floor) at the foot of the steps and near the end of the stony ford. (Chapter 7: Queer Lodgings. The Hobbit. JRR Tolkein).

Gandalf says of The Carrock “He called it the Carrock, because carrock is his word for it. He calls things like that carrocks, and this one is the Carrock because it is the only one near his home and he knows it well.”

“Who calls it? Who knows it?”

“The Somebody I spoke of-a very great person. You must all be very polite when I introduce you … He can be appalling when he is angry, though he is kind enough if humoured. Still I warn you he gets angry easily.”

“Some say that he is a bear descended from the great and ancient bears of the mountains that lived there before the giants came. Others say that he is a man descended from the first men who lived before Smaug or the other dragons came into this part of the world, and before the goblins came into the hills out of the North.”

This painting is another experiment in oils. The second from bottom however, has been developed electronically using Procreate on the iPad. In many ways I like the softness of that electronic image and would like to develop my oil painting style along these lines. There is no river in this painting as I could not work it into the composition, so I set the carrock as a lone sculpted hill in a meadow. If I continue to paint, I must obliterate the meadow and build in other less well defined shapes as in the electronic version, rocks and water pooling as it tumbles toward us.

This is a present for my son. The bear image is based on the tattoo on his shoulder. The Carrock derives from a stoneware sculpture called Forest and Strata by Andrew Matheson.

Cambridge

Three weeks ago I went to meet people gathering near Cambridge with whom I identify and whom I had only met through social media before now. The Friday night and then the breakfast on Saturday morning have, I think been transformative. Driving back, the thoughts and memories merged with the light over the road and started to form into this abstract which I have subsequently painted in oils.

This is how it started.

grammar of images

This is an exercise in using oils. I feel a bit more in control, mixing with a knife and using paint on the tip of the brush rather than over loading the bristles.  Where needed I am blending on the canvas.

There was no sketch. The only idea was the hard edge between orange and blue centre stage and a vague sense of yellow and green at the top.

Rotating this 90 degrees and working further imposed a child-like grammar of landscape – blue sky and clouds above, earth colours, mountains, trees, grass, below.

The other way up, blue and white are water and surf crashing onto rock faces.

Rotate back one quarter and I am staring down the cliffs onto a torrent.  It needs the dentate leaves of ferns and, far below, the small shapes of wheeling pterosaurs.

I’ve been following a lot of fabulous palaoeart on twitter recently which is rubbing off on me.  See these as examples, fossil fish and the first pterosaur to be recognised as being furry.  Here are some more. Mark Witton, whose sketch accompanies a piece on the BBC world service, is a fabulous palaeoartist I have followed for some time.

 

is there a way through this?

So this is the finished oil painting.  Finished in the sense I don’t propose to work more on it.  The series leading to this is below in chronological order, starting with the charcoal sketch, which was then transferred to the canvas.

Part of the challenge here was simply experimenting with mixing paint and applying it to the canvas.

So this is the point I should have stepped back and been careful to retain the structure of the foreground from the original sketch.

So it was with this iteration I lost the structure in the lower right quadrant, obscuring this with vegetation rising from the bottom of the canvas.  Part of the challenge was my clumsiness with using the brush to apply a clean stroke of paint

This version had been digitally altered to variegate depth of tone, as an exploration of how to proceed, leading to the final version.

So there were various bits I like along the journey but the final painting does not pull them together.  Time to stop.  More sketching needed with an eye to the subsequent painting.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

mmm…

I hope everyone has had happy holidays. This is how my first attempt in oils is shaping up. These are water miscible, but that just means I can wash brushes without toxicity.  I have switched to using linseed oil as the mixer where needed.  This builds on a charcoal dog-sketch transferred onto a textured canvass, prepared by painting over an old image in white acrylic.  After the first layer of oil I muted the garish colours in white, left it for a few days then scraped back.  I will leave this to harden a few days then work over it again. There is a kind of plan, but I dont wholly know what I am doing. The dog-sketch was from late September and I have some source photos.  However, I am  not setting out to be true to the original scene.  Comments and advice are welcome